It starts innocently enough. A teacher in school teaches your child something you have long since forgotten. You are too lazy to look up how to do the special shortcut on your phone or the meaning of the newest acronym. Suddenly, your children begin to believe they may just be smarter and wiser than their rapidly aging parents.
The first signs are often deep sighs accompanied by eye rolls. You can hear the exasperation in their tone as they impatiently explain probably for the SECOND time how to accomplish the ever so simple task you obviously are unable to master. Suddenly, everything you say is suspect. If Mom can’t master such a simple task, how can she possibly know what’s best for me in my complex social situation? Or how to add triple digit numbers? Forget about anything cultural or spiritual. Surely, any information she can share is from the dark ages before Apple.
If you have been a parent for very long, you probably have or will see signs of this in your children from time to time. Some of you may see it multiple times on a daily basis. Most parents internally roll their own eyes and think, “Life will knock you down a peg or two and then you’ll come running back to me for advice.” And they are probably right – to a point.
Although this attitude is common and natural, it sets the stage for a heart problem that shouldn’t be ignored. At the root, is an arrogance that says “If I have to take the time to teach you something which is easy for me, you have nothing of any value you can possibly teach me.” It smacks of the beginning of not only a prideful spirit, but also a child who will miss learning very valuable lessons from the most unlikely of people.
There are actually a few simple things you can do to minimize the “I’m smarter than Mom’s” in your house. If used consistently, you will find repeat performances are minimized and your advice is even respected and heeded at times.
- When first confronted with the “I’m smarter than Mom” eye rolls and sighs (or the ever popular “You don’t understand. It’s different now!”), quietly, but firmly remind your child of your credentials. They don’t have to be impressive by adult standards. No matter your formal education or lack thereof, you still have years of life experience your child has yet to see or live. Try not to have any anger in your voice, as you empathize, but remind your children of your knowledge and wisdom they have yet to gain. Basically, you are calmly reminding your child to offer you the respect God requires them to give you as their parent. You can even throw in a few Proverbs about heeding your parents’ instruction, if it is a really bad day!
- Teach your children everyone can teach them something. Granted sometimes the lesson your children learn may be a lesson in what not to do, but everyone has something to share. I have learned some of my most important lessons from a little girl with an IQ of 45 and a young man who has never uttered an intelligible word. No matter how intelligent or educated your child becomes, he must always believe everyone has something he can learn from them.
- Train your child to embrace the concept of God’s ultimate wisdom and knowledge. This becomes a danger in your child’s teen’s and twenty’s. As we become exposed to people in higher education who either don’t believe in God or minimize God’s place in the world, it is tempting to think we can be smarter and wiser than God. Especially when He commands us to not do something that sounds like it might be really fun. Surely, God didn’t mean that for your child. Your child is smarter and wiser and knows what he wants is better for him than what God commands. So much of your child’s life and eternity rests on your child being able to accept God is smarter and wiser than he will ever be. If he cannot accept that concept, he will most likely reject God’s commands at every turn.
- Become a life-long learner yourself. Did you know only a tiny percentage of people read even one book a year? I would imagine even less attend seminars or take classes. It is easy to understand why your children think learning peaks, stops and reverses with age. It is the example many of us set. Let your children see you learn something new – secularly or spiritually. Model humility as you allow someone younger or less educated to teach you something new.Show your children people can continue to learn and grow in knowledge and wisdom throughout their lives.
- Show your children how to question others respectfully. Showing respect and humility for the knowledge and wisdom of God and others does not mean your children have to check their brains at the door. In fact, the New Testament in particular, is filled with letters encouraging Christians to question everything they are taught and compare it to scripture. You will have to teach your children how to question and still be respectful and humble in the process. Teach them how to make notes and fact check material. Help them understand even the best teachers can misspeak or make mistakes. Even people who are truly entirely off course in what they are teaching can be taught the way “more perfectly” as happened to Apollos in Acts. Aquila and Priscilla didn’t mock Apollos, rather they helped lovingly correct his mistakes so he could become a better teacher in the future. Questioning facts and advice is valuable, but it must be done with a loving and humble spirit.
- Teach your children their talents and experiences are all gifts from God. Everyone does not have the blessings your child was given. (It rains on the just and the unjust in our fallen world.) Had your child been born in another time or place, he might not have access to an education at all. Any intelligence, skill or talent your child has is a gift from God which should be acknowledged and appreciated. It should also be used for what God meant for it to be used – worshipping God, serving others, sharing our faith and building up the Church. Show your child how to use her gifts as a humble servant of God and not as a prideful stepping stone to power, fame and money.
- Remind your children there will always be someone smarter and wiser than they are – even if it is God. If your child becomes truly arrogant because he or she is extremely gifted, remind him calmly but firmly that he has yet to become the smartest person on the planet. When and if that day should ever arrive, God will always be smarter and wiser than whomever that person may be. Hopefully, your child will never get to this point, but some extremely gifted children in academics, music, athletics and more are so often told they are practically perfect, they begin to believe it themselves. That is when pride takes firmly hold of hearts and becomes difficult to remove. Don’t wait until it gets that bad. If your child regularly demonstrates a prideful attitude, it is important to gently, but firmly remind them of their accurate place in the universe.
As parents, we will never entirely eliminate eye rolls. Let’s face it, we still roll our eyes from time to times ourselves. With work and practice, you can minimize not only the eye rolls but the lack of humility and respect that often accompany them. Although it appears personal, if left unchecked, it can lead to a spiritual arrogance which can ultimately separate your child from God. It’s worth taking the time and effort to change.